When I wrote about my bulk taco seasoning recipe, I mentioned we only use 2 pounds of ground beef for our family of 9, and that I only started using the second pound about 2 children ago. Several of you were shocked and wanted to know how this was possible, so I thought I’d write a little bit more about how we manage this.
First of all, THIS is what 2 pounds of ground beef/hamburger looks like (plus some onions from our garden…more on that in a moment):
The skillet is a 15″ cast iron skillet from Lodge. As the meat cooks, we season it and often throw in onions and/or peppers to add flavor. From here, the possibilities are endless!
Let’s say you are doing something with a Mexican flair…
Add tomatoes, beans, rice, and some type of sauce (tomato sauce is the most often used one here).
More garden veggies, noodles, and sauce.
Oatmeal, veggies, beans, lentils, and yes…sauce!
And don’t forget CHEESE! We use a lot of cheese, sour cream, and veggies to add to our meat to create a heartier meal.
You can easily double the amount of pasta or rice you put into a dish and still keep the ground beef amounts the same. Casseroles and stove-top meals (like the Unstuffed Cabbage Roll recipe below) are the easiest to stretch. We rarely do something like meatloaf or a meat by itself (unless we are cooking up steaks, pork chops, or homemade brats). Meatloaf can be bulked up with oats or rice, but not many in my family are fans of meatloaf, so I don’t even bother.
We often make quesadillas for a quick lunch (<—take a look at that post – it’s from when I was pregnant with Baby #7 and there’s a sonogram picture!) We will start with the 2 pounds of hamburger meat, but when that runs out, we finish off with cheese-only quesadillas. And again, we encourage the kids to add sour cream, lettuce, and salsa to bulk up calories.
Another thing we do is set out bowls of “sides” that add an element of fun to the meal. It is not uncommon for there to be pickles, black olives, or a bowl of cut up cucumbers on the table to serve as finger foods to supplement the meal. Sometimes I serve a traditional side (mainly for the evening meal when Daddy is home), but usually for lunch, the main dish is supplemented only by the extra finger foods.
And in case you are wondering, yes, I do serve snacks. Around 3 o’clock is snack time and it helps to carry everyone through to suppertime.
Now let me give you a real life example from a meal we had a couple of nights ago…
I set out to make the Trim Healthy Mama Stuffed Cabbage Rolls from the book, but realized too late they were supposed to be in the crock pot for 7-9 hours! (Please tell me I’m not the only one who does stuff like this!) So, I went with an unstuffed version from a recipe online. Of course, there’s no way an online recipe is going to contain the right amounts for our family (unless of course, it’s from my own stash of Large Family Recipes), so I set out to tweak it.
The first thing I noticed was that it had 1.5 – 2 pounds of meat listed to serve 5-6 people; however, the cabbage was supposed to be a small head with the addition of only one small can of tomato sauce. That’s where I grabbed my bulk. The cabbage I used was large, and I used 2 cans of sauce, but could have used more if I wanted a soupier mixture (which works really well when putting it over something like rice or noodles!). I could have added other veggies too like zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant or peppers.
Because this was going to be a THM-friendly dish, I had my son cook a large pot of rice as a side for the children. If you aren’t watching your carb intake, then cook the rice and add it right into the dish itself. You could even turn this into a soup by adding more tomato sauce and some water or broth.
And that was our meal. Everyone tanked up and there was only a tiny bit of leftovers that Baby Creed will eat for lunch tomorrow.
Here’s my large family (with only 2# of ground beef) version of Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls:
Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, diced
2 cans diced tomatoes (or fresh)
2 cans (8 oz each) tomato sauce
1 cabbage, coarsely chopped
seasonings to taste
In a large skillet, brown ground beef with onion and season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic, or other favorite seasonings. Add in the diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce and mix. Next, add the chopped cabbage and rest a lid on top of the pile of cabbage to encourage it to steam and cook down. (I promise, it WILL cook down and fit in your 15″ skillet. If you don’t have a large skillet, transfer the meat to a large pot before adding the cabbage.) Once the cabbage cooks down a bit, stir to mix the meat and sauce in with the cabbage. Continue to cook down until cabbage is tender.
Now, it’s your turn! How do you stretch your meat? What sorts of things do you add for bulk and calories? And don’t forget to mention how many you are feeding!